MIND FOR ME­DIA

Think­ing out­side the square

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AS­PIR­ING jour­nal­ists are be­ing en­cour­aged to seek ca­reer op­tions out­side the main­stream me­dia, as an in­creas­ing num­ber of grad­u­ates com­pete for fewer jobs.

Aus­tralian me­dia and mar­ket­ing web­site Mumbrella re­ported no more than 40 jobs for jour­nal­ists were ad­ver­tised around the coun­try in April, and spec­u­lated that very few jour­nal­ism stu­dents grad­u­at­ing this year will ever find work as jour­nal­ists.

De­spite the gloomy out­look, jour­nal­ism en­rol­ments are steadily in­creas­ing, with Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, Em­ploy­ment and Work­place Re­la­tions fig­ures show­ing there were 4288 stu­dents en­rolled in jour­nal­ism in 2008, com­pared with 3013 in 2001.

The depart­ment re­ports en­rol­ments in jour­nal­ism have in­creased by 42 per cent, com­pared with an in­crease in over­all en­rol­ments in higher ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses of 27 per cent. The head of UniSA’s School of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies and Lan­guages, Kerry Green, says the uni­ver­sity lim­its its in­take of jour­nal­ism stu­dents to 80 a year.

‘‘(Jour­nal­ism en­rol­ments) would have kept in­creas­ing if we let them but we have to be re­spon­si­ble about it. We can’t flood the mar­ket with a whole heap of grad­u­ates,’’ Prof Green says.

He says stu­dents are ac­tively en­cour­aged to look at jobs other than at metropoli­tan news­pa­pers and tele­vi­sion sta­tions, which are largely out of the reach of grad­u­ates.

Three sep­a­rate stud­ies, in­clud­ing one co-au­thored by Pro­fes­sor Green, con­ducted in the past 15 years all found less than a third of new grad­u­ates will be picked up by the main­stream me­dia.

Up to 40 per cent are em­ployed by non-tra­di­tional me­dia out­lets, in­clud­ing pub­lic re­la­tions and those in­volv­ing newer forms of technology such as so­cial me­dia and blog­ging.

The re­main­der go into non-me­dia pro­fes­sions, Prof Green says.

‘‘Of course (jour­nal­ism stu­dents) are all go­ing into it think­ing they’re go­ing to work for a metropoli­tan paper or a TV sta­tion, but then they dis­cover that’s not go­ing to be the case,’’ he says.

‘‘A lot of them get jobs at sub­ur­ban news­pa­pers, a lot of them get jobs at their home news­pa­per at the home towns they have grown up in and then they go on from there.’’

Prof Green says on­line pub­li­ca­tions are a rel­a­tively new em­ployer for grad­u­ates and of­ten pro­vide greater scope by not con­strain­ing them with news­pa­per word-counts or tele­vi­sion and ra­dio time lim­its.

‘‘You can take more ad­van­tage of this un­lim­ited amount of space that there is in the bl­o­go­sphere and on the web and write longer forms of sto­ries,’’ he says.

‘‘Writ­ing and main­tain­ing your own blog and hav­ing your own voice gives you an op­por­tu­nity to in­flu­ence our world. There’s a lot of al­tru­is­tic peo­ple out there who say one way to have my say is to be­come a jour­nal­ist and prop­a­gate the fourth es­tate no­tion of jour­nal­ism.’’

Sec­ond-year jour­nal­ism stu­dent Emma Of­fler, 24, has a cur­rent af­fairs blog, the Ir­reg­u­lar Blog­ger, which she hopes will give her a foot in the door to paid blog­ging in the fu­ture.

‘‘That’s the path I’m go­ing down, but it is a lot harder in Aus­tralia to be­come a pro­fes­sional blog­ger. In the US, (blog­gers) get paid to do re­views, they get sent things (to re­view), they go to con­fer­ences all over the coun­try,’’ Ms Of­fler says.

‘‘I’m try­ing to break into that, but it re­quires a lot of time to get your name out there and find some­one who is will­ing to spon­sor you or put some money into you.’’

Ms Of­fler says she en­joys the ex­tra free­dom blog­ging pro­vides com­pared with other forms of jour­nal­ism.

‘‘You can write any­thing you want, she says. ‘‘You can do what­ever you want and there’s no one edit­ing or cen­sor­ing you.’’

Fel­low stu­dent Chan­nelle Leslie, 19, writes the NotSoNaked blog and has been paid to post her views on fashion web­site 2threads.com.

‘‘It (blog­ging) is def­i­nitely a ca­reer move,’’ Ms Leslie says.

‘‘It’s part of my ca­reer devel­op­ment.

‘‘It helps me de­velop my own skills and put my name out there.’’

Pic­ture: Brenton Ed­wards

UniSA jour­nal­ism stu­dents Emma Of­fler, top, and Chan­nelle Leslie with their blogs.

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